DJI recently announced their new partnership with PrecisionHawk to improve their geofencing technology. Leveraging PrecisionHawk’s Low Altitude Traffic and Airspace Safety (LATAS) platform, DJI will be able to refine airspace limitations for drone flights near airports. These updates to DJI’s geofencing technology will provide smarter protection for manned and unmanned aircraft in critical areas and clarify restrictions.
What is Geofencing?
DJI geofencing uses GPS and other navigational satellite signals to automatically help prevent drones from flying near sensitive locations such as airports, prisons, nuclear power plants and high-profile events. In certain locations, a DJI drone cannot take off or fly in a geofenced area without special authorization. Drone pilots with verified DJI accounts can unlock some areas if they have legitimate reasons and necessary approvals, but the most critical areas require special action from DJI to unlock them.
DJI first created No-Fly Zones for its drones in 2013 and introduced the more refined GEO system three years later, adding live updates and new zones for prisons and nuclear power plants, while providing flexible self-unlocking for professionals. Both systems recognized that the overwhelming majority of drone pilots want to fly safely and responsibly, and want an easy-to-use guide to help them understand the airspace so they can do so.
DJI’s current GEO system shows safety zones as color-coded circles. These will be updated to more complex polygon shapes in GEO 2.0 to provide greater accuracy.
GEO 2.0 Refines No-Fly Zones Around Airports
The new system, Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) Version 2.0, will allow DJI to create detailed three-dimensional “bow tie” safety zones surrounding runway flight paths, and to use complex polygon shapes around other sensitive facilities, rather than just simple circles. These new restrictions better reflect the actual safety risk posed in those areas, while allowing more flights to the side of runways where risk is substantially lower.
The GEO system previously geofenced a 5-mile circle around airports, with enhanced restrictions in a smaller circle encompassing the airport area. The new GEO 2.0 applies a bow tie shape instead with the strongest restrictions within a 1.2 kilometer- (3/4 mile)-wide rectangle around each runway and the flight paths at either end, where airplanes actually ascend and descend. Less strict restrictions apply to an oval area within 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) of each runway. The chart below illustrates how GEO 2.0 applies these detailed, risk-based airspace boundaries to the airspace around airports that can be considered to involve relative high, medium, and low risk.
This bow tie shape opens more areas on the sides of runways to beneficial drone uses, as well as low-altitude areas more than 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the end of a runway, while increasing protection in the locations where traditional aircraft actually fly.
DJI’s new boundary areas around airport runways are based on the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Annex 14 standard for airspace safety near runways and the FAA’s Part 77 parameters for “imaginary surfaces” and air navigation obstructions. DJI’s categorization of airports is based on traffic volume principles defined in statutes such as U.S. Title 49 section 47102, and the FAA’s criteria developed in 2012 for categorizing general aviation airports.
DJI’s new geofencing also incorporates the principles of Section 384 of the recently-enacted FAA Reauthorization Act designating the final approach corridor to active runways at major airports to be “runway exclusion zones” for unauthorized drones.
DJI Chooses PrecisionHawk Over AirMap
DJI has chosen PrecisionHawk as their new data provider, replacing DJI’s previous geospatial data provider AirMap. PrecisionHawk’s LATAS platform will provide the highly accurate details DJI needs, such as the exact locations of airport runways and facility boundaries, to support the enhanced shapes in GEO 2.0.
After years of development and testing, we are excited to leverage our LATAS platform to support DJI’s customers in conducting safe drone operations across North America.
—Diana Cooper, Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy, PrecisionHawk
LATAS, which was tested under the FAA Pathfinder Program to facilitate safe beyond visual line of sight operations, brings a combined set of geospatial and software tools to the market. In addition to providing improved geospatial data, the LATAS platform features specialized display elements, including telemetry and access to the Harris real-time manned aircraft feed. Using these elements pilots can easily observe the relative altitude and horizontal separation of intruding aircraft and other mission-critical measures.
DJI also stated that a shared mindset of safety and innovation led DJI to choose PrecisionHawk as their new data provider.
DJI is pleased to partner with companies that support our vision of safe skies that are open to innovation…PrecisionHawk shares DJI’s commitment to ensuring that safety technology enhances the ability of recreational and commercial drone pilots to fly.
—Brendan Schulman, DJI vice president of policy & legal affairs
When Will DJI’s New GEO System Go Into Effect?
The updated GEO 2.0 system will be phased in starting next month when the revised zones will take effect for airspace around airports in the United States. Upgrades in other regions will follow in due course. DJI customers should update their DJI GO 4 flight control app and aircraft firmware to ensure these improvements are implemented.
AirMap has informed their partners and customers that they can expect the exact same AirMap experience on applications as well as third-party applications powered by the AirMap Developer Platform. Additionally, drone operators can continue to fly their DJI drones directly from the AirMap for Drones mobile app if they choose.
Once implemented, will DJI’s new geofencing system make it easier for drone operators to determine where they can and cannot fly, especially near sensitive areas such as airports? Share your thoughts on the UAV Coach community forum here.